Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Quick Update On An Update

Howdy, Folks! Long time no write!

Since I am recently totally poor again and seem to excel at it, I am bringing this blog back to life with dreams of spinning it into something bigger. Or at least coming up with more ideas on how to make life easier for all involved and offering them out to the world. I want to be a professional poor person!!!

So here's the deal. I will keep writing new blogs and revamping these older nuggets to make them relevant . If you like them, spread the love so that maybe some day maybe someone will love them so much, they will employ me and I can get that 2005 Toyota Camry I dream of having someday.

A new domain has been purchased and I will be figuring out how to get these into that soon too.

Thanks for reading! Happy Summer aka That Time We Don't Pay For Heating Bills!!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

My eyes adored you: The reprise.

I am reposting this because I now have 6 pairs of glasses and four of them are missing. Actually, 7 but one is bent up and cockeyed. So they don't even qualify as emergency back up glasses unless my cheekbone on the right side rises two inches higher. Otherwise I have to hold it to my face with my finger. The point is, I have 6 1/2 pairs of glasses. Somewhere. This is why.

For years I wore the same pair of glasses. They were from the Harry Potter children's line and had little glow in the dark balls at the ends in case I needed to find them for Quidditch in the the pitch black.  My head is large child size.  My glasses fit me perfectly. Which is why I was so bummed when they fell out of my sports bra when I was running on the beach. Well, mostly why. The other why was because I am, as we have established, flat broke and could not afford another pair at conventional prices.

Most of us figure out a way to meet the bills. Or at least know that we are quickly approaching not being able to meet the bills. Or know the structure of our financial woes when it comes to not meeting the bills. But when the car breaks down and it turns out to be your catalytic converter. Or your teeth start aching from a hole rotting in them and you don't have dental insurance. Or your glasses fall out of your bussom and you can't drive without them, you sit down and weep because you go from barely surviving to feeling  helpless and ruined. I couldn't get to work if someone called me for a job or go to the store or take my child to the doctor because I cannot drive without them. This wasn't a "want a latte" situation. This was a "can't function in society" situation.

Well, friends, desperate times blahblahblah. I remember hearing about this website called In fact, I had perused the site prior to this sceptically because the glasses started at very low prices. Prescription ones. My Harry P's were old and bent by the time they fell out of my chest. I had toyed with ordering a new pair but I am a conditioned name brand snob. And  I couldn't see what I was getting. The glasses are all presized and the dimensions are millimeters. Plus the prices went up in level with better materials at the top of the price chain (around 40 something....wooheeee...fancy!). How good can a pair of low budget glasses be?

I love them. LOVE them! They are pink wire frames. Not the most lavish materials.Very light.You might even say disposable.  But they look nice. They have UV protection and have anti scratch coating on the lenses and even come with a full guarantee. They will last awhile unless I use my bra to hold them. They cost less than an entree in jungle themed chain restaurant. The website has a good instructional how to order area when you aren't too lazy to go look deeper like, say, me initially. I found out how to convert inches to millimeters and got a general idea of my dimensions.

There are a whole lot of styles, not all of them would fit me but there were so many that I had choices. I considered going nuts and buying ones in the less cheap but still cheap area. In the end, I  took my chances and ordered a pair of low priced plus reasonable shipping fee prescription glasses. They arrived in a timely manner in a little hard plastic box with a cleaning cloth in a padded envelope.  Which may have cost more than the actual glasses.

 I may even go nuts and buy another pair. Maybe acetate frame ones. Maybe prescription sunglasses!  I always wanted to have a variety of choices. And when I have money again, I think I will buy 20 of them in all different styles that I can lose without weeping. Because that is what one pair normally would have cost me. How cool is that?

Post Update:  I did order that pair of prescription sunglasses.  And two pair of plastic frame panther pattern glasses and another pair of plastic frame tortoise shell glasses.  The pink metal frame glasses sit in my car to assure that I can always drive even if the ones in my bra get lost. I still LOVE this place!

Image via hill.josh/flickr at

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Googling Marriage: Money Stress Combat 101

I spent the better part of a decade completely wound up about money. My husband is in school, living in a lab trying to finally get done with ten years of life in higher education and get on with life. I am a control freak who uses focusing on minutiae to avoid internal issues. It's not a good combination when dealing with finances.

Our communication issues didn't help. I would obsess about finding money to get from debt A to debt B and he would turn to worrying about future expenses. I would resent him and block him out.  He would feel left out in the cold.  So, of course, eventually everything blew up in our faces.  And I'm glad. He began to look for solutions for future debt resolution and I quit caring about what happened to money when I needed to work on the multitude of problems I'd been avoiding with the obsessing. We began to communicate. And we came up with a neat trick to cover each other's asses.

Both of us use Google products. We have several blog sites, email addresses, etc. A while back, the husband's lab started using Google Calendar to coordinate their projects. He suggested I add on to it so that we can both see each other's schedules. His work needs, my gigs, what have you. His schedule is in blue, mine is in red. It is free.

I began to write down gig payments in detail and keep my book on my calendar. That way when tax season rolls around, I could get a better look at my expenses. There are options to look at the calendar weekly, monthly, etc. so I could look at the whole picture or concentrate on a smaller amount of time. Also, there is a section on the event that you can put notes on. So, if I did a show, I could put down who for, location, payment type, etc. We decided to take this a step further.

I have been the keeper of the bills for the duration of our marriage. If something needed to be paid that he had the most access to, I would tell him the day of to do it. This probably lead to a little resentment because I felt like I was doing all of the thinking, having to remind him of everything sometimes multiple times because it was not in front  of him. And he felt like he couldn't tread into my control freak turf without angst.  Now, I put it on the schedule, marking the day we should pay it, the day it is due and whoever pays it marks it as done.  I can alert him of our money...or lack there of...situation in the bank account and what I've paid on the calendar. Every day we update it and check it.

Lately, I've been keeping my money stress isolated to the calendar. Say the bank account is low in funds? I don't need to bother him at work. I just write what is in there, what has been written against and the end results. He's a smart man, a scientist. He can figure out why pulling out 50 dollars when you only have 40 is a bad idea. And if it falls through? We miss something? Oh well. Two of us did it together. It's not just my problem...not that it ever really was....anymore.

Also, I used to be adamant about protecting my performing stand up schedule and he would have a hard time figuring out his own evening life around it. Part of the problem was that it as often short notice and I had planned my set, my travel, whatever else around the event and part of the problem is he didn't feel allowed to work around it, assume that it was a done deal without finding alternative solutions.

We have recently shifted to include his needs more and by marking everything on the calendar, he can see what the conflicts are...and I've dumped the ones that aren't necessary to manage the family better...and if we want to do something at the same time we usually have some time to figure out how to address child care issues, appointment bookings, and  how to coordinate potential conflicts down the road.

At first, I was a little skeptical about this new system flying. Letting control go really kills your inner self martyr.  This whole I do all of the thinking thing that I had going on took a boot to the proverbial crotch. But we both read the calendar daily. We both deal with what's on there. We both note when the deeds that need to be done are finalized. Gigs, doctors appointments, all potential conflict are put in as soon as it is possible so that when something comes up we can communicate and deal with solutions. And we haven't forgotten a thing so far.

Bills aren't just my soul problem in  my head anymore. He is getting more freedom to go do things that he likes without a backlash from my schedule conflicts. I have to say, it really has made a difference. And it didn't cost us a thing. Got to love that Google.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shampoop: DIY Can Be Good For Your Head

I hate certain scents. It's hard to tell if I am actually allergic to them or just hate them so much that they dry out my mouth and make it hard to breathe. Things like fabric softener and Mountain Fresh Scent in laundry detergent. If a person has really loaded it on, I can't be on the same side of the room with them. So, in lieu of risking a wheezy whiney wife and having to buy a 10 dollar bottle of laundry soap, the husband began to make our own. And, besides having to own a large pot to stir it in and a place to put it, it is fairly simple. And wicked inexpensive. It made us take a step back and begin to suspect that there was very little reason for the prices attached to these all natural green products beyond greed and we began to look for other things to make, leading us into the wild and woolly world of home made cleansing and body products.

Okay. Maybe not wild. Or woolly, really. But I live with a scientist. Figuring out percentages in ounces can be fun. I swear.

We have begun to put together different products to start a line of skin creams, body oils and soaps. I don't want to tell you how because when we build our Etsy empire to be followed by our mail order empire to be followed by our vendor table at street fair empire, I want you to NEED us. But the truth is, you really don't. The advantage we have over you is that we invested in the basics...which pay for themselves really quickly....and we have been experimenting with different varieties of smells and textures.  Also, when it comes to soap, there is the issue of some math to be done to make the fat vs. lye balanced. But, between you and me and the wall, it takes balls to charge 5 bucks for a bar of soap if you knew how much a batch costs and how much you get in it. Unless there is money cooked into that fancy hippy soap, you are getting schtupped.

The laundry soap costs about three bucks a batch. All natural. Three ingredients. Cleans great. It looks a little weird, but so what.

I found a recipe for dishwashing detergent. Again under three bucks for a gallon of this stuff.

We also make our own mozzerella cheese. Super super easy. Renin, Citric acid, milk and some salt. Takes twenty minutes. If you screw it up, it is ricotta.

The husband makes his own beer and wine. Okay. THAT is a little more expensive because you have to have equipment, but, really, after all is said and done, he gets a lot of hootch that would cost way more in the store and he has say about the elements that goes into it.

In the long run, it is good to know the basic elements that make a product work just to know what you is rubbing into your skin or onto your dishes that you eat from. But people who normally will analyze their food products down to the cow the milk came from don't think twice about what is exactly in the soap you are dumping into the clothes you are wearing as long as it is biodegradable and "green."

What is it? Really? At least  consider that if you look at the recipes for some of these things, you will know what you are actually paying for. Because you will be astonished at how often you are paying for packaging and profit and then a little teeny bit of ingredient. And maybe you might want to take a shot at making your own.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

It's Just A Thing....Or Is It? Thinking Twice About What You Sell

For a long time now, we have been in a holding pattern. I watch my daughter during the day and work when I get it.  My husband goes to college and is finishing...finally.... his PHD. We aren't living on the streets or anything. Our apartment is nice. We have clothes that get a little tattered but we can find ways to replace them when they become truly embarrassing. Some times are better than others. You can usually tell by how much we splurge on eating out. Once in a while we have enough to buy something cool, usually so that we can sell it when things aren't so good. And that's okay normally but there are two things that I regret selling. And one is my ukulele.

There is a musician named Melvern Taylor. He plays the ukulele like a champ. He makes it retro cool. He lives in Lowell and wears a porkpie hat with neat facial hair. My ex-boyfriend who used to be in charge of the music department of a huge advertising agency in NYC said that he knew who he was. Mel is that type of musician. The kind a lot of specific people know from all over because ukulele afficianados are a special breed. He was the first musician that I ever liked and sought out when we moved to Boston. And he made me want to play the uke too.

My husband has always been very kind when it comes to humoring my quirky wants. We went to Guitar Center and there was a beautiful Mitchell on sale for a little under two hundred dollars. It was fierce and fit my small hands and most of them had nylon strings that didn't look as painful as guitar strings. I took it home and compared it to the Hawaiian novelty ones that we had sent from my mother in law in Honolulu. It was obviously a better instrument (although the pink one looked wicked cool). Not as good as Mel's but it had mother of pearl inlay and felt right in my hands. I would sit at my dad's old desk after I downloaded chords, trying to play songs. Or I would try to study the lessons from my Ukulele instruction manual.  Mel even gave me a names of recommended teachers.

But the money started running out again and there were so many other things that we needed besides my ukulele lessons. Eventually we fell into the inevitable pinch when I had to sell things again. My husband's guitar was sacred to me. We purchased it right before my daughter was born so that she would always be surrounded with people playing music. My husband had a beautiful voice and would sing to her. Later, we got an electric piano cheap. I held on to that second because I had dreams of our daughter learning to play and I loved banging away at it badly. We could always get another ukulele. So it went to a nice man on Craigslist who bought it for his son. I was glad that it went to an appreciative home.

We got a crappier one that my daughter drags around trying to teach herself now. She has potential. I regret never letting her play with my beautiful good one.

Some day I will get another one and I will get to keep it. Some day I will be able to buy one without thinking of it as not something to sell in a pinch but value it for what it is. A time when poverty doesn't rule our decisions and let us keep the things that we regret selling later. Not that the holding pattern has been so bad with occasional family trips and nice meals spun from creative spending.  Some of those memories will be the best days of my life. And we had our good days when I was just selling stuff to get it out of the house. But, let's say, consistently better days on the other side of education and sporadic incomes. With ukuleles.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Paid Too Much For Your Shopping Mall Ladle: Silverplate Is Your Friend

I've got this stoneware handmade medium sized pottery pitcher that my mom made. She's a professional artist, not some lady with a group of other ladies in a basement of a community center pressing things from molds. It is a high quality piece of art work created by a skilled artisan. This pitcher is a rarity in my doesn't have a chunk missing out of it anywhere on it. It could be resold if, say, I ran out of other things to sell. Not that I would  but say it was between it and my left much was it worth to the average folk on Ebay? I know how much it really is worth. Every town in the country with disposable income and abundance of yoga classes has one or two or five art gallery and home decorating joints. She used to sell stuff in them.  Folks pay a lot for a fine piece of craft. So imagine my shock when I saw the going prices in the online auction world. You pay more for a piece of reproduced crap in a super sized department store. Same for a whole lot of other things.

Say you are strapped for cash. The credit card is maxed out. You cannot afford even a  $25 gift card at Target for an anniversary present. The birthday's of your adult dear ones gives you night sweats. Your pie server's handle busted off and you have one steak knife with the tip missing. You need something for under fifteen bucks and it just doesn't exist out there. Or your options are just plain old bad quality bunk (Melamine tableware for 16 bucks. Seriously?! I don't care if you do get 12 pieces. It's plastic.) What is a soul to do?

I was looking at flatware at a fairly decent department store where one would go to purchase dining ware. Reasonable but with quality stock. There was a high-end name 65 piece set on sale for 190 bucks. Really good price one would think. BUT its stainless steel. Are they out of their fucking minds?
 I like to think in terms of resale value.  You can't give that away.

It is worth, in the unloading it kind of way, about 65 bucks if you sold them today. Maybe. I don't care if Lady Gaga pressed the metal herself.  Silverplate, which is basically a crappier metal like, say stainless steel (! ) or, in older days, copper or such with a layer of silver over it. And, right now, you can't give that away on auction sites either.  If you are going to go drop money on an casual dining set of flatware and it is going to be cheap metal, don't be spending $190 dollars. Go to a cheaper store for the some poor quality metal with a lesser fancy name or get thee to Ebay and punch in the words "Wm. Rogers or International" under the "antiques silverplate" section and get yourself a pretty set for under a hundred bucks that you can hawk for at least maybe SOMEthing if you get desperate and have enough of it. Cake servers? Ladles? Meat forks? Poultry shears? You can get them for the same price, maybe less but far more gorgeous and they won't fall apart. Often mistaken for real silver without an experienced eye. Your welcome.

There are truly beautiful silverplate pieces out there that have very little value in this market. A lot of dealers don't like even bothering with them these days.  Same goes with china that normally would have sold for a ton two years ago. And non-gallery functional artisan pieces. And glassware.

Need a nice birthday or wedding present? Punch in "Limoges" in your auction's china site. You'd be surprised what you can get. Or go to the glass section and shop it. A vase? Maybe even that same water pitcher new. Or better yet, go to the studio pottery or art glass section and get something unique and far more valuable in the future. There are literally thousands of quality choices out there. Many cheaper than that gift card you can't afford.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Don't Look The Gifted Crap In The Mouth

So your great great auntie passes away and it is up to you to get rid of the years of sentimental belongings that she had tucked in the back of the drawers and hidden on chotzke bookshelves.  Old things that are, well, sort of ugly and dated.  The first thought that crosses your mind is, "The thrift shop is going to be so pissed at me when I try to unload this on them." But you start looking at them a little closer.  The materials are cheap but they are old and sort of charming in their ugliness. And she loved them for a reason.  Kept them for 30, 40, maybe 50 or even 60 years. So you put them in a box in the basement and try to forget about them.

Well, you may be glad you had.  There are a series of collectible items that I have run across in auctions and antique stores and online whathaveyou that have suprised me.  Because they are not made of silver or gold or porcelain.  They tend to be a little tacky next to modern belongings. And they are collectible as hell.

For instance, chalkware.  Chalkware looks like figures that are formed from dried up toothpaste, sanded down and painted. It is found in figurines, lamp bases, anything that you wouldn't eat off but can be pressed into a shape.  You may recognize the material from manger figures and mid-century religious statuettes.  Apparently Christians in the Truman era were wild about chalkware.  Chalkware manufacturers were prone to kittens, doggies, cowboys, smiling fruit, and floating heads (sometimes with string coming out of their mouths). I found four from the  1950's in the shape of ballet dancers that were intended to hang from the wall.  One didn't make it through the shipping process to California.  Which explains why chalkware is collectible.  It is really hard to keep it intact.  That creepy looking clown figurine from 1952 that you always wanted to break? Be glad you didn't.

Then there is toleware.  Aka painted tin. Sexy, right?  You've probably seen a million pieces but they  just never registered. A lot are painted with floral patterns, occasionally a Pennsylvania dutch motiff.  Tip trays (small rectangular trays), round trays, serving trays, coasters, lampshades, most places where painted tin comes in handy. Items are being pursued by collectors as long as they haven't been dented or chipped or otherwise abused.

Enamelware is another surprising and hugely diverse type of collectible. Kind of the sometimes deceptively older and more practical cousin to tolewear.  Again tin looking.  Again painted (actually coated in thin glass).  Sturdy in very specific colors, often used for cooking. You know those blue tin coffee mugs that you used for camping? That could be enamelware. Some pieces can be very very old. It is a huge market. And you can have a piece in front of your nose. Or more likely in your back yard or basement where someone used it as a planter or used it to haul water. It can be that coal bucket.  Or the camping mug.  Or the sentimental teapot that you kept on the top shelf of your hutch because it looked quaint. It reminded you of cooking over open flames. It didn't occur to anyone that it could have value because it was so darned useful.

What I'm saying is, before you pitch it out, if you have an item that is in pretty decent shape that is kitchy (aka ugly looking but sort of cool) or useful and even a little old, it may not be a bad idea to poke around a bit.  Punch in the description and see what Ebay has to say on the topic. Other things like lighters and tin signs have very large collectors communities.  And if they aren't worth anything, its an excuse to finally unload the bunch of crap in a box in your basement.